"Oh how could he, mother dear? how could any one give you that? Who was it that ever knew you could trate you with anything but respect and affection?"
"I hope I always struv to do my duty, Bryan, towards God an' my childre', and my fellow-creatures; an' for that raison I'm not frightened at death. An', Bryan, listen to the words of your dyin' mother—"
"Oh, don't say that yet, mother," replied her son, sobbing; "don't say so yet; who knows but God will spare your life, an' that you may be many years with us still; they're all alarmed too much, I hope; but it's no wondher we should, mother dear, when there's any appearance at all of danger about you."
"Well, whether or not, Bryan, the advice I'm goin' to give you is never out o' saison. Live always with the fear of God in your heart; do nothing that you think will displease Him; love your fellow-creatures—serve them and relieve their wants an' distresses as far as you're able; be like your own father—kind and good to all about you, not neglectin' your religious duties. Do this, Bryan, an' then when the hour o' death comes, you'll feel a comfort an' happiness in your heart that neither the world nor anything in it can give you. You'll feel the peace of God there, an' you will die happy—happy."
Her spirit, animated by the purity and religious truth of this simple but beautiful morality, kindled into pious fervor as she proceeded, so much so indeed, that on turning her eyes towards heaven, whilst she uttered the last words, they sparkled with the mild and serene light of that simple but unconscious enthusiasm on behalf of all goodness which had characterized her whole life, and which indeed is a living principle among thousands of her humble countrywomen.
"This, dear Bryan, is the advice I gave to them all; it an' my love is the only legacy I have to lave them. An' my darlin' Dora, Bryan—oh, if you be kind and tendher to any one o' them beyant another, be so to her. My darlin'Dora! Oh! her heart's all affection, an' kindness, an' generosity. But indeed, as I said, Bryan, the task must fall to you to strengthen and console every one o' them. Ay!—an' you must begin now. You wor ever, ever, a good son; an' may God keep you in the right faith, an' may my blessin' an' His be wid you for ever! Amin."
There was a solemn and sustaining spirit in her words which strengthened Bryan, who, besides, felt anxious to accomplish to the utmost extent the affectionate purpose which had caused her to send for him.
"It's a hard task, mother darlin," he replied; "but I'll endeavor, with God's help, to let them see that I haven't been your son for nothing; but you don't know, mother, that Kathleen's here, an' Hanna. They wish to see you, an' to get your blessin'."
"Bring them in," she replied, "an' let Dora come wid them, an' stay yourself, Bryan, becaise I'm but weak, an' I don't wish that they should stay too long. God sees its not for want of love for the other girls that I don't bid you bring them in, but that I don't wish to see them sufferin' too much sorrow; but my darlin' Dora will expect to be where Kathleen is, an' my own eyes likes to look upon her, an' upon Kathleen, too, Bryan, for I feel my heart bound to her as if she was one of ourselves, as I hope she will be."
"Oh, bless her! bless her! mother," he said, with difficulty, "an' tell her them words—say them to herself. I'll go now and bring them in."
He paused, however, for a minute or two, in order to compose his voice and features, that he might not seem to set them an example of weakness, after which he left the apartment with an appearance of greater composure than he really felt.
In a few minutes the four returned: Bryan, with Kathleen's hand locked in his, and Hanna, with her arm affectionately wreathed about Dora's neck, as if the good-hearted girl felt anxious to cherish and comfort her under the heavy calamity to which she was about to be exposed, for Dora wept bitterly. Mrs. M'Mahon signed to Hanna to approach, who, with her characteristic ardor of feeling, now burst into tears herself, and stooping down kissed her and wept aloud, whilst Dora's grief also burst out afresh.
The sick woman looked at Bryan, as if to solicit his interference, and the look was immediately understood by Kathleen as well as by himself.
"This is very wrong of you, Hanna," said her sister; "out of affection and pity to them, you ought to endeavor to act otherwise. They have enough, an' to much, to feel, without your setting them example; and, Dora dear, I thought you had more courage than you have. All this is only grieving and disturbing your mother; an' I hope that, for her sake, you'll both avoid it. I know it's hard to do so, but it's the difficulty and the trial that calls upon us to have strength, otherwise what are we better than them that we'd condemn or think little of for their own weakness."
The truth and moral force of the words, and the firmness of manner that marked Kathleen as she spoke, were immediately successful. The grief of the two girls was at once hushed; and, after a slight pause, Mrs. M'Mahon called Kathleen to her.
"Dear Kathleen," she said, "I did hope to see the day when you'd be one of my own family, but it's not the will of God, it appears, that I should; however, may His will be done! I hope still that day will come, an' that your friends won't have any longer an objection to your marriage wid Bryan. I am his mother, an' no one has a better right to know his heart an' his temper, an' I can say, upon my dyin' bed, that a better heart an' a better temper never was in man. I believe, Kathleen, it was never known that a good son ever made a bad husband. However, if it's God's will to bring you together, He will, and if it isn't, you must only bear it patiently."
Bryan was silent, but his eye, from time to time, turned with a long glance of love and sorrow upon Kathleen, whose complexion became pale and red by turns. At length Dora, after her mother had concluded, went over to Kathleen, and putting her arms around her neck, exclaimed, "Oh! mother dear, something tells me that Kathleen will be my sisther yet, an' if you'd ask her to promise—"
Kathleen looked down upon the beautiful and expressive features of the affectionate girl, and gently raising her hand she placed it upon Dora's lips, in order to prevent the completion of the sentence. On doing so she received a sorrowful glance of deep and imploring entreaty from Bryan, which she returned with another that seemed to reprove him for doubting her affection, or supposing that such a promise was even necessary. "No, Dora dear," she said, "I could make no promise without the knowledge of my father and mother, or contrary to their wishes; but did you think, darling, that such a thing was necessary?" She kissed the sweet girl as she spoke, and Dora felt a tear on her cheek that was not her own.
Mrs. M'Mahon had been looking with a kind of mournful admiration upon Kathleen during this little incident, and then proceeded. "She says what is right and true; and it would be wrong, my poor child, to ask her to give such a promise. Bryan, thry an' be worthy of that girl—oh, do! an' if you ever get her, you'll have raison to thank God for one of the best gifts He ever gave to man. Hanna, come here—come to me—let me put my hand upon your head. May my blessin' and God's blessin' rest upon you for ever more. There now, be stout, acushla machree." Hanna kissed her again, but her grief was silent; and Dora, fearing she might not be able to restrain it, took her away.
"Now," proceeded the dying woman, "come to me, you Kathleen, my daughter—sure you're the daughter of my heart, as it is. Kneel down and stay with me awhile. Why does my heart warm to you as it never did to any one out o' my own family? Why do I love you as if you were my own child? Because I hope you will be so. Kiss me, asthore machree."
Kathleen kissed her, and for a few moments Mrs. M'Mahon felt a shower of warm tears upon her face, accompanied by a gentle and caressing pressure, that seemed to corroborate and return the hope she had just expressed. Kathleen hastily wiped away her tears, however, and once more resuming her firmness, awaited the expected blessing.
"Now, Kathleen dear, for fear any one might say that at my dyin' hour, I endeavored to take any unfair advantage of your feelings for my son, listen to me—love him as you may, and as I know you do."
"Why should I deny it?" said Kathleen, "I do love him."
"I know, darlin', you do, but for all that, go not agin the will and wishes of your parents and friends; that's my last advice to you."
She then placed her hand upon her head, and in words breathing of piety and affection, she invoked many a blessing upon her, and upon any that was clear to her in life, after which both Bryan and Kathleen left her to the rest which she now required so much.
The last hour had been an interval from pain with Mrs. M'Mahon. In the course of the day both the priest and the doctor arrived, and she appeared somewhat better. The doctor, however, prepared them for the worst, and in confirmation of his opinion, the spasms returned with dreadful violence, and in the lapse of two hours after his visit, this pious and virtuous woman, after suffering unexampled agony with a patience and fortitude that could not be surpassed, expired in the midst of her afflicted family.
It often happens in domestic life, that in cases where long and undisturbed affection is for the first time deprived of its object by death, there supervenes upon the sorrow of many, a feeling of awful sympathy with that individual whose love for the object has been, the greatest, and whose loss is of course the most irreparable. So was it with the M'Mahons. Thomas M'Mahon himself could not bear to witness the sufferings of his wife, nor to hear her moans. He accordingly left the house, and walked about the garden and farm-yard, in a state little short of actual distraction. When the last scene was over, and her actual sufferings closed for ever, the outrage of grief among his children became almost hushed from a dread of witnessing the sufferings of their father; and for the time a great portion of their own sorrow was merged in what they felt for him. Nor was this feeling confined to themselves. His neighbors and acquaintances, on hearing of Mrs. M'Mahon's death, almost all exclaimed:—
"Oh, what will become of him? they are nothing an will forget her soon, as is natural, well as they loved her; but poor Tom, oh! what on earth will become of him?" Every eye, however, now turned toward Bryan, who was the only one of the family possessed of courage enough to undertake the task of breaking the heart-rending intelligence to their bereaved father.
"It must be done," he said, "and the sooner it's done the better; what would I give to have my darlin' Kathleen here. Her eye and her advice would give me the strength that I stand so much in need of. My God, how will I meet him, or break the sorrowful tidings to him at all! The Lord support me!"
"Ah, but Bryan," said they, "you know he looks up to whatever you say, and how much he is advised by you, if there happens to be a doubt about anything. Except her that's gone, there was no one—"
Bryan raised his hand with an expression of resolution and something like despair, in order as well as he could to intimate to them, that he wished to hear no allusion made to her whom they had lost, or that he must become incapacitated to perform the task he had to encounter, and taking his hat he proceeded to find his father, whom he met behind the garden.
It may be observed of deep grief, that whenever it is excited by the loss of what is good and virtuous, it is never a solitary passion, we mean within the circle of domestic life. So far from that, there is not a kindred affection under the influence of a virtuous heart, that is not stimulated, and strengthened by its emotions. How often, for instance, have two members of the same family rushed into each other's arms, when struck by a common sense of the loss of some individual that was dear to both, because it was felt that the very fact of loving the same object had now made them dear to each other.
The father, on seeing Bryan approach, stood for a few moments and looked at him eagerly; he then approached him with a hasty and unsettled step, and said, "Bryan, Bryan, I see it in your face, she has left us, she has left us, she has left us all, an' she has left me; an' how am I to live without her? answer me that; an then give me consolation if you can."
He threw himself on his son's neck, and by a melancholy ingenuity attempted to seduce him as it were from the firmness which he appeared to preserve in the discharge of this sorrowful task, with a hope that he might countenance him in the excess of his grief—"Oh," he added, "I've have lost her, Bryan—you and I, the two that she—that—she—Your word was everything to her, a law to her; and she was so proud out of you—I an' her eye would rest upon you smilin', as much as to say—there's my son, haven't I a right to feel proud of him, for he has never once vexed his mother's heart? nayther did you, Bryan, nayther did you, but now who will praise you as she did? who will boast of you behind your back, for she seldom did it to your face; and now that smile of love and kindness will never be on her blessed lips more. Sure you won't blame me, Bryan—oh, sure above all men livin', you won't blame me for feelin' her loss as I do."
The associations excited by the language of his father were such as Bryan was by no means prepared to meet. Still he concentrated all his moral power and resolution in order to accomplish the task he had undertaken, which, indeed, was not so much to announce his mother's death, as to support his father under it. After a, violent effort, he at length said:—
"Are you sorry, father, because God has taken my mother to Himself? Would you wish to have her here, in pain and suffering? Do you grudge her heaven? Father, you were always a brave and strong, fearless man, but what are you now? Is this the example you are settin' to us, who ought to look up to you for support? Don't you know my mother's in heaven? Why, one would think you're sorry for it? Come, come, father, set your childre' an example now when they want it, that they can look up to—be a man, and don't forget that she's in God's Glory, Come in now, and comfort the rest."
"Ay, but when I think of what she was, Bryan; of what she was to me, Bryan, from the first day I ever called her my wife, ay, and before it, when she could get better matches, when she struggled, and waited, and fought for me, against all opposition, till her father an' mother saw her heart was fixed upon me; hould your tongue, Bryan, I'll have no one' to stop my grief for her, where is she? where's my wife, I tell you? where's Bridget M'Mahon?—Bridget, where are you? have you left me, gone from me, an' must I live here widout you? must I rise in the mornin,' and neither see you nor hear you? or must I live here by myself an' never have your opinion nor advice to ask upon anything as I used to do—Bridget M'Mahon, why did you leave me? where are you from me?"
"Here's Dora," said a sweet but broken voice; "here's Dora M'Mahon—your own Dora, too—and that you love bekaise I was like her. Oh, come with me, father, darlin'. For her sake, compose yourself and come with me. Oh, what are we to feel! wasn't she our mother? Wasn't she?—wasn't she? What am I sayin'? Ay, but, now—we have no mother, now!"
M'Mahon still leaned upon his son's neck, but on hearing his favorite daughter's voice, he put his arm round to where she stood, and clasping her in, brought her close to him and Bryan, so that the three individuals formed one sorrowing group together.
"Father," repeated Dora, "come with me for my mother's sake."
He started. "What's that you say, Dora? For your mother's sake? I will, darlin'—for her sake, I will. Ay, that's the way to manage me—for her sake. Oh, what wouldn't I do for her sake? Come, then, God bless you, darlin', for puttin' that into my head. You may make me do anything now, Dora, jewel—if you just ax it for her sake. Oh, my God! an is it come to this? An' am I talkin' this way?—but—well, for her sake, darlin'—for her sake. Come, I'll go in—but—but—oh, Bryan, how can I?"
"You know father," replied Bryan, who now held his arm, "we must all die, and it will be well for us if we can die as she died. Didn't father Peter say that if ever the light of heaven was in a human heart, it was in hers?"
"Ay, but when I go in an' look upon her, an' call Bridget, she won't answer me."
"Father dear, you are takin' it too much to heart."
"Well, it'll be the first time she ever refused to answer me—the first time that ever her lips will be silent when I spake to her."
"But, father," said the sweet girl at his side, "think of me. Sure I'll be your Dora more than ever, now. You know what you promised me this minute. Oh, for her sake, and for God's sake, then, don't take it so much to heart. It was my grandfather sent me to you, an' he says he want's to see you, an' to spake to you."
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "My poor father, an' he won't be long afther her. But this is the way wid all, Bryan—the way o' the world itself. We must go. I didn't care, now, how soon I followed her. Oh, no, no."
"Don't say so, father; think of the family you have; think of how you love them, and how they love you, father dear. Don't give way so much to this sorrow. I know it's hard to bid you not to do it; but you know we must strive to overcome ourselves. I hope there's happy days and years before us still. We'll have our leases soon, you know, an' then we'll feel firm and comfortable: an' you know you'll be—we'll all be near where she sleeps."
"Where she sleeps. Well, there's comfort in that, Bryan—there's comfort in that."
The old man, though very feeble, on seeing him approach, rose up and met him. "Tom," said he, "be a man, and don't shame my white hairs nor your own. I lost your mother, an' I was as fond of her, an' had as good a right, too, as ever you were of her that's now an angel in heaven; but if I lost her, I bore it as a man ought. I never yet bid you do a thing that you didn't do, but I now bid you stop cryin', an don't fly in the face o' God as you're doin'. You respect my white hairs, an' God will help you as he has done!"
The venerable appearance of the old man, the melancholy but tremulous earnestness with which he spoke, and the placid spirit of submission which touched his whole bearing with the light of an inward piety that no age could dim or overshadow, all combined to work a salutary influence upon M'Mahon. He evidently made a great effort at composure, nor without success. His grief became calm; he paid attention to other matters, and by the aid of Bryan, and from an anxiety lest he should disturb or offend his father by any further excess of sorrow, he was enabled to preserve a greater degree of composure than might have been expected.
CHAPTER XII.—Hycy Concerts a Plot and is urged to Marry.
The Hogans, who seldom missed a Wake, Dance, Cockfight or any other place of amusement or tumult, were not present, we need scarcely assure our readers, at the wake-house of Mrs. M'Mahon. On that night they and Teddy Phats were all sitting in their usual domicile, the kiln, already mentioned, expecting Hycy, when the following brief dialogue took place, previous to his appearance:
"What keeps this lad, Hycy?" said Bat; "an' a complate lad is in his coat, when he has it on him. Troth I have my doubts whether this same gentleman is to be depended on."
"Gentleman, indeed," exclaimed Philip, "nothing short of that will sarve him, shure. To be depinded on, Bat! Why, thin, its more than I'd like to say. Howanever, he's as far in, an' farther than we are."
"There's no use in our quarrelin' wid him," said Phats, in his natural manner. "If he's in our power, we're in his; an' you know he could soon make the counthry too hot to hold us. Along wid all, too, he's as revengeful as the dioule himself, if not a thrifle more so."
"If he an' Kathleen gets bothered together," said Philip, "'twould be a good look up for us, at any rate."
Kate Hogan was the only female present, the truth being that Philip and Ned were both widowers, owing, it was generally believed, to the brutal treatment which their unfortunate wives received at their hands.
"Don't quarrel wid him," said she, "if you can, at any rate, till we get him more in our power, an' that he'll be soon, maybe. If we fall out wid him, we'd have to lave the place, an' maybe to go farther than we intend, too. Wherever we went over the province, this you know was our headquarters. Here's where all belongin' to us—I mane that ever died a natural death, or drew their last breath in the counthry—rests, an' I'd not like to go far from it."
"Let what will happen," said Philip, with an oath, "I'd lose my right arm before Bryan M'Mahon puts a ring on Kathleen."
"I can tell you that Hycy has no notion of marry in' her, thin," said Kate.
"How do you know that?" asked her husband.
"I've a little bird that tells me," she replied.
"Gerald Cavanagh an' his wife doesn't think so," said Philip. "They and Jemmy Burke has the match nearly made."
"They may make the match," said Kate, "but it's more than they'll be able to do to make the marriage. Hycy's at greater game, I tell you; but whether he is or not, I tell you again that Bryan M'Mahon will have her in spite of all opposition."
"May be not," said Phats; "Hycy will take care o' that; he has him set; he'll work him a charm; he'll take care that Bryan won't be long in a fit way to offer himself as a match for her."
"More power to him in that," said Philip; "if he makes a beggarman of him he may depend on us to the back-bone."
"Have no hand in injurin' Bryan M'Mahon," said Kate. "Keep him from marryin' Kathleen if you like, or if you can; but, if you're wise, don't injure the boy."
"Why so?" asked Philip.
"That's nothing to you," she replied; "for a raison I have; and mark me, I warn you not to do so or it'll be worse for you."
"Why, who are we afraid of, barrin Hycy himself?"
"It's no matther; there's them livin' could make you afeard, an' maybe will, too, if you injure that boy."
"I'd just knock him on the head," replied the ferocious ruffian, "as soon as I would a mad dog."
"Whisht," said Phats, "here's Hycy; don't you hear his foot?"
Hycy entered in a few moments afterwards, and, after the usual greetings, sat down by the fire.
"De night's could," said Phats, resuming his brogue; "but here," he added, pulling out a bottle of whiskey, "is something to warm de blood in us. Will you thry it, Meeisther Hycy?"
"By-and-by—not now; but help yourselves."
"When did you see Miss Kathleen, Masther Hycy," asked Kate.
"You mean Miss Kathleen the Proud?" he replied—"my Lady Dignity—I have a crow to pluck with her."
"What crow have you to pluck wid her?" asked Kate, fiercely. "You'll pluck no crow wid her, or, if you do, I'll find a bag to hould the fedhers—mind that."
"No, no," said Philip; "whatever's to be done, she must come to no harm."
"Why, the crow I have to pluck with her, Mrs. Hogan, is—let me see—why—to—to marry her—to bind her in the bands of holy wedlock; and you know, when I do, I'm to give you all a house and place free gratis for nothing during your lives—that's what I pledge myself to do, and not a rope to hang yourselves, worthy gentlemen, as Finigan would say. I pass over the fact," he proceeded, laughing, "of the peculiar intimacy which, on a certain occasion, was established between Jemmy, the gentleman's old oak drawers, and your wrenching-irons; however, that is not the matter at present, and I am somewhat in a hurry."
"You heard," said Bat, "that Bryan M'Mahon has lost his mother?"
"I did," said the other; "poor orphan lad, I pity him."
"We know you do," said Bat, with a vindictive but approving sneer.
"I assure you," continued Hycy, "I wish the young man well."
"Durin' der lives," repeated Phats, who had evidently been pondering over Hycy's promised gift to the Hogans;—"throth," he observed with a grin, "dere may be something under dat too. Ay! an' she wishes Bryan M'Mahon well," he exclaimed, raising his red eyebrows.
"Shiss," replied Hycy, mimicking him, "her does."
"But you must have de still-house nowhere but in Ahadarra for alls dat."
"For alls dats" replied the other. "Dat will do den," said Phats, composedly. "Enough of this," said Hycy. "Now, Phats, have you examined and pitched upon the place?"
"Well, then," replied Phats, speaking in his natural manner, "I have; an' a betther spot isn't in Europe than there is undher the hip of Cullamore. But do you know how Roger Cooke sarved Adam Blakely of Glencuil?"
"Perfectly well," replied Hycy, "he ruined him."
"But we don't know it," said Ned; "how was it, Teddy?"
"Why, he set up a still on his property—an' you know Adam owns the whole townland, jist as Bryan M'Mahon does Ahadarra—an' afther three or four runnin she gets a bloody scoundrel to inform upon Adam, as if it was him an' not himself that had the still. Clinton the gauger—may the devil break his neck at any rate!—an' the redcoats—came and found all right, Still, Head, and Worm."
"Well," said Bat, "an' how did that ruin him?"
"Why, by the present law," returned Phats, "it's the townland that must pay the fine. Poor Adam wasn't to say very rich; he had to pay the fine, however, and now he's a beggar—root an' branch, chick an' child out of it. Do you undherstand that, Misther Hycy?"
"No," replied Hycy, "you're mistaken; I have recourse to the still, because I want cash. Honest Jemmy the gentleman has taken the sthad an' won't fork out any longer, so that I must either run a cast or two every now an' then, or turn clodhopper like himself. So much I say for your information, Mr. Phats. In the meantime let us see what's to be done. Here, Ned, is a five-pound note to buy barley; keep a strict account of this; for I do assure you that I am not a person to be played on. There's another thirty-shilling note—or stay, I'll make it two pounds—to enable you to box up the still-house and remove the vessels and things from Glendearg. Have you all ready, Philip?" he said, addressing himself to Hogan.
"All," replied Philip; "sich a Still, Head, and Worm, you'd not find in Europe—ready to be set to work at a minute's notice."
"When," said Hycy, rising, "will it be necessary that I should see you again?"
"We'll let you know," replied Phats, "when we want you. Kate here can drop in, as if by accident, an' give the hand word."
"Well, then, good-night—stay, give me a glass of whiskey before I go; and, before I do go, listen. You know the confidence I place in every one of you on this occasion?"
"We do," replied Philip; "no doubt of it."
"Listen, I say. I swear by all that a man can swear by, that if a soul of you ever breathes—I hope, by the way, that these young savages are all asleep—"
"As sound as a top," said Bat, "everyone o' them."
"Well, if a single one of you ever breathes my name or mentions me to a human being as in any way connected, directly or indirectly, with the business in which we are engaged, I'll make the country too hot to hold you—and you need no ghost to tell you how easily I could dispose of you if it went to that."
Kate, when he had repeated these words, gave him a peculiar glance, which was accompanied by a short abrupt laugh that seemed to have something derisive in it.
"Is there anything to be laughed at in what I am saying, most amiable Mrs. Hogan?" he asked.
Kate gave either a feigned or a real start as he spoke.
"Laughed at!" she exclaimed, as if surprised; "throth I wasn't thinkin of you at all, Mr. Hycy. What wor you sayin'?"
"That if my name ever happens to be mentioned in connection with this business, I'll send the whole kit of you—hammers, budgets, and sothering-irons—to hell or Connaught; so think of this now, and goodnight."
"There goes as d——d vagabond," said Ned, "as ever stretched hemp; and only that it's our own business to make the most use we can out of him, I didn't care the devil had him, for I don't like a bone in his skin."
"Why," said Philip, "I see what he's at now. Sure enough he'll put the copin'-stone on Bryan. M'Mahon at any rate—that, an' if we can get the house and place out of him—an' what need we care?"
"Send us to hell or Connaught," said Kate; "well, that's not bad—ha! ha! ha!"
"What are you neigherin' at?" said her husband; "and what set you a-caoklin' to his face a while ago?"
She shook her head carelessly. "No matther," she replied, "for a raison I had."
"Would you let me know your raison, if you plaise?"
"If I plaise—ay, you did well to put that in, for I don't plaise to let you know any more about it. I laughed bekaise I liked to laugh; an' I hope one may do that 'ithout being brought over the coals about it. Go to bed, an' give me another glass o' whiskey, Ted—it always makes me sleep."
Ted had been for some minutes evidently ruminating.
"He is a good boy," said he; "but at any rate our hands is in the lion's mouth, an' its not our policy to vex him."
Hycy, on his way home, felt himself in better spirits than he had. been in for some time. The arrangement with young Clinton gave him considerable satisfaction, and he now resolved to lose as little time as possible in executing his own part of the contract. Clinton himself, who was a thoughtless young fellow, fond of pleasure, and with no great relish for business, was guided almost in everything by his knowing old uncle the gauger, on whom he and his sister depended, and who looked upon him as unfit for any kind of employment unless the management of a cheap farm, such as would necessarily draw his attention from habits of idleness and expense to those of application and industry. Being aware, from common report, that M'Mahon's extensive and improvable holding in Ahadarra was out of lease, he immediately set his heart upon it, but knew not exactly in what manner to accomplish his designs, in securing it if he could, without exposing himself to suspicion and a good deal of obloquy besides. Old Clinton was one of those sheer and hardened sinners who, without either scruple or remorse, yet think it worth while to keep as good terms with the world as they can, whilst at the same time they laugh and despise in their hearts all that is worthy of honor and respect in it. His nephew, however, had some positive good, and not a little of that light and reckless profligacy which is often mistaken for heart and spirit. Hycy and he, though not very long acquainted, were, at the present period of our narrative, on very intimate terms. They had, it is true, a good many propensities in common, and these were what constituted the bond between them. They were companions but not friends; and Clinton saw many things in Hycy which disgusted him exceedingly, and scarcely anything more than the contemptuous manner in which he spoke of and treated his parents. He liked his society, because he was lively and without any of that high and honorable moral feeling which is often troublesome to a companion who, like Clinton, was not possessed of much scruple while engaged in the pursuit of pleasures. On this account, therefore, we say that he relished his society, but could neither respect nor esteem him.
On the following morning at breakfast, his uncle asked him where he had dined the day before.
"With Hycy Burke, sir," replied the nephew.
"Yes; that is honest Jemmy's son—a very great man in his own conceit, Harry. You seem to like him very much."
Harry felt a good deal puzzled as to the nature of his reply. He knew very well that his uncle did not relish Hycy, and he felt that he could not exactly state his opinion of him without bringing in question his own penetration and good taste in keeping his society. Then, with respect to his sister, although he had no earthly intention of seeing her the wife of such a person, still he resolved to be able to say to Hycy that he had not broken his word, a consideration which would not have bound Hycy one moment under the same circumstances.
"He's a very pleasant young fellow, sir," replied the other, "and has been exceedingly civil and attentive to me."
"Ay!—do you like him—do you esteem him, I mean?"
"I dare say I will, sir, when I come to know him better."
"Which is as much as to say that at present you do not. So I thought. You have a portion of good sense about you, but in a thousand things you're a jackass, Harry."
"Thank you, sir," replied his nephew, laughing heartily; "thank you for the compliment. I am your nephew, you know."
"You have a parcel of d——d scruples, I say, that are ridiculous. What the devil need a man care about in this world but appearances? Mind your own interests, keep up appearances, and you have done your duty."
"But I should like to do a little more than keep up appearances," replied his nephew.
"I know you would," said his uncle, "and it is for that especial reason that I say you're carrying the ears. I'm now a long time in the world, Masther Harry—sixty-two years—although I don't look it, nor anything like it, and in the course of that time—or, at all events, ever since I was able to form my own opinions, I never met a man that wasn't a rogue in something, with the exception of—let me see—one—two—three—four—five—I'm not able to make out the half-dozen."
"And who were the five honorable exceptions?" asked his niece, smiling.
"They were the five fools of the parish, Maria—and yet I am wrong, still—for Bob M'Cann was as thievish as the very devil whenever he had an opportunity. And now, do you know the conclusion I come to from all this?"
"I suppose," said his niece, "that no man's honest but a fool."
"Thank you, Maria, Well done—you've hit it. By the way, it's seems M'Mahon's wife, of Carriglass, is dead."
"Is she?" said Harry; "that is a respectable family, father, by all accounts."
"Why, they neither rob nor steal, I believe," replied his uncle. "They are like most people, I suppose, honest in the eye of the law—honest because the laws keep them so."
"I did not think your opinion of the world was so bad, uncle," said Maria; "I hope it is not so bad as you say it is."
"All I can say, then," replied the old Cynic, "that if you wait till you find an honest man for your husband, you'll die an old maid."
"Well, but excuse me, uncle, is that safe doctrine to lay down before your nephew, or myself?"
"Pooh, as to you, you silly girl, what have you to do with it? We're taikin' about men, now—about the world, I say, and life in general."
"And don't you wish Harry to be honest?"
"Yes, where it is his interest; and ditto to roguery, where it can be done safely."
"I know you don't feel what you say, uncle," she observed, "nor believe it either."
"Not he, Maria," said her brother, awakening out of a reverie; "but, uncle, as to Hycy Burke—I don't—hem."
"You don't what?" asked the other, rising and staring at him.
His nephew looked at his sister, and was silent.
"You don't mean what, man?—always speak out. Here, help me on with this coat. Fethertonge and I are taking a ride up tomorrow as far as Ahadarra."
"That's a man I don't like," said the nephew. "He's too soft and too sweet, and speaks too low to be honest."
"Honest, you blockhead! Who says he's honest?" replied his uncle. "He's as good a thing, however, an excellent man of the world that looks to the main point, and—keeps up appearances. Take care of yourselves;" and with these words, accompanied with a shrewd, knavish nod that was peculiar to him, in giving which with expression he was a perfect adept, he left them.
When he was gone, the brother and his sister looked at each, other, and the latter said, "Can it be possible, Harry, that my uncle is serious in all he says on this subject?"
Her brother, who paid more regard to the principles of his sister than her uncle did, felt great reluctance in answering her in the affirmative, so much so, indeed, that he resolved to stretch a little for the sake of common decency.
"Not at all, Maria; no man relishes honesty more than he does. He only speaks in this fashion because he thinks that honest men are scarce, and so they are. But, by-the-way, talking about Hycy Burke, Maria, how do you like him?"
"I can't say I admire him," she replied, "but you know I have had very slight opportunities of forming any opinion."
"From what you have seen of him, what do you think?"
"Let me see," she replied, pausing; "why, that he'll meet very few who will think so highly of him as he does of himself."
"He thinks very highly of you, then."
"How do you know that?" she asked somewhat quickly.
"Faith, Maria, from the best authority—because he himself told me so."
"So, then, I have had the honor of furnishing you with a topic of conversation?"
"Unquestionably, and you may prepare yourself for a surprise. He's attached to you."
"I think not," she replied calmly.
"Why so?" he asked.
"Because, if you wish to know the truth, I do not think him capable of attachment to any one but himself."
"Faith, a very good reason, Maria; but, seriously, if he should introduce the subject, I trust, at all events, that you will treat him with respect."
"I shall certainly respect myself, Harry. He need not fear that I shall read him one of my uncle's lectures upon life and honesty."
"I have promised not to be his enemy in the matter, and I shall keep my word."
"So you may, Harry, with perfect safety. I am much obliged to him for his good opinion; but"—she paused.
"What do you stop at, Maria?"
"I was only about to add," she replied, "that I wish it was mutual."
"You wish it," he exclaimed. "What do you mean by that, Maria?"
She laughed. "Don't you know it is only a form of speech? a polite way of saying that he does not rank high in my esteem?"
"Well, well," he replied, "settle that matter between you; perhaps the devil is not so black as he's painted."
"A very unhappy illustration," said his sister, "whatever has put it into your head.'
"Faith, and I don't know what put it there. However, all I can say in the matter I have already said. I am not, nor shall I be, his enemy. I'll trouble you, as you're near it, to touch the bell till George gets the horse. I am going up to his father's, now. Shall I tell him that John Wallace is discarded; that he will be received with smiles, and that—"
"How can you be so foolish, Harry?"
"Well, good-bye, at any rate. You are perfectly capable of deciding for yourself, Maria."
"I trust so," she replied. "There's George with your horse now."
"It's a blue look-up, Master Hycy," said Clinton to himself as he took his way to Burke's. "I think you have but little chance in that quarter, oh, most accomplished Hycy, and indeed I am not a whit sorry; but should be very much so were it otherwise."
It is singular enough that whilst Clinton was introducing the subject of Hycy's attachment to his sister, that worthy young gentleman was sustaining a much more serious and vehement onset upon a similar subject at home. Gerald Cavanagh and his wife having once got the notion of a marriage between Kathleen and Hycy into their heads, were determined not to rest until that desirable consummation should be brought about. In accordance with this resolution, we must assure our readers that Gerald never omitted any opportunity of introducing the matter to Jemmy Burke, who, as he liked the Cavanaghs, and especially Kathleen herself, who, indeed, was a general favorite, began to think that, although in point of circumstances she was by no means a match for him, Hycy might do still worse. It is true, his wife was outrageous at the bare mention of it; but Jemmy, along with a good deal of blunt sarcasm, had a resolution of his own, and not unfrequently took a kind of good-natured and shrewd delight in opposing her wishes whenever he found them to be unreasonable. For several months past he could not put his foot out of the door that he was not haunted by honest Gerald Cavanagh, who had only one idea constantly before him, that of raising his daughter to the rank and state in which he knew, or at least calculated that Hycy Burke would keep her. Go where he might, honest Jemmy was attended by honest Gerald, like his fetch. At mass, at market, in every fair throughout the country was Cavanagh sure to bring up the subject of the marriage; and what was the best of it, he and his neighbor drank each other's healths so repeatedly on the head of it, that they often separated in a state that might be termed anything but sober. Nay, what is more, it was a fact that they had more than once or twice absolutely arranged the whole matter, and even appointed the day for the wedding, without either of them being able to recollect the circumstances on the following morning.
Whilst at breakfast on the morning in question, Burke, after finishing his first cup of tea, addressed his worthy son as follows:—
"Hycy, do you intend to live always this way?"
"Certainly not, Mr. Burke. I expect to dine on something more substantial than tea."
"You're very stupid, Hycy, not to understand me; but, indeed, you never were overstocked wid brains, unfortunately, as I know to my cost—but what I mane is, have you any intention of changing your condition in life? Do you intend to marry, or to go on spendin' money upon me at this rate!"
"The old lecture, Mrs. Burke," said Hycy, addressing his mother. "Father, you are sadly deficient in originality. Of late you are perpetually repeating yourself. Why, I suppose to-morrow or next day, you will become geometrical on our hands, or treat us to a grammatical praxis. Don't you think it very likely, Mrs. Burke!"
"And if he does," replied his mother, "it's not the first time he has been guilty of both; but of late, all the little shame he had, he has lost it."
"Faith, and if I hadn't got a large stock, I'd a been run out of it this many a day, in regard of what I had to lose in that way for you, Hycy. However I'll thank you to listen to me. Have you any intention of marryin' a wife?"
"Unquestionably, Mr. Burke. Not a doubt of it."
"Well, I am glad to hear it. The sooner you're married, the sooner you'll settle down. You'll know, then, my lad, what life is."
Honest Jemmy's sarcasm was likely to carry him too far from his purpose, which was certainly not to give a malicious account of matrimony, but, on the contrary, to recommend it to his worthy son.
"Well, Mr. Burke," said Hycy, winking at his mother, "proceed."
"The truth is, Hycy," he added, "I have a wife in my eye for you."
"I thought as much," replied the other. "I did imagine it was there you had her; name—Mr. Burke—name?"
"Troth, I'm ashamed, Hycy, to name her and yourself on the same day."
"Well, can't you name her to-day, and postpone me until to-morrow?"
"It would be almost a pity to have her thrown away upon you. A good and virtuous wife, however, may do a great deal to reclaim a bad husband, and, indeed, you wouldn't be the first profligate that was reformed in the same way."
"Many thanks, Mr. Burke; you are quite geological this morning; isn't he, ma'am?"
"When was he ever anything else? God pardon him! However, I know what he's exterminatin' for; he wants you to marry Kathleen Cavanagh."
"Ay do I, Rosha; and she might make him a respectable man yet,—that is, if any woman could."
"Geological again, mother; well, really now, Katsey Cavanagh is a splendid girl, a fine animal, no doubt of it; all her points are good, but, at the same time, Mr. Burke, a trifle too plebeian for Hycy the accomplished."
"I tell you she's a devilish sight too good for you; and if you don't marry her, you'll never get such a wife."
"Troth," answered Mrs. Burke, "I think myself there's something over you, or you wouldn't spake as you do—a wife for Hycy—one of Gerald Cavanagh's daughters make a wife for him!—not while I'm alive at any rate, plaise God."
"While you're alive; well, may be not:—but sure if it plases God to bring it about, on your own plan, I must endaivor to be contented, Rosha; ay, an' how do you know but I'd dance at their weddin' too! ha! ha! ha!"
"Oh, then, it's you that's the bitther pill, Jemmy Burke! but, thank God, I disregard you at all events. It's little respect you pay to my feelings, or ever did."
"I trust, my most amiable mother, that you won't suffer the equability of your temper to be disturbed by anything proceeding from such an antiphlogistic source. Allow me to say, Mr. Burke, that I have higher game in view, and that for the present I must beg respectfully to decline the proposal which you so kindly made, fully sensible as I am of the honor you intended for me. If you will only exercise a little patience, however, perhaps I shall have the pleasure ere long of presenting to you a lady of high accomplishments, amiable manners, and very considerable beauty."
"Not a 'Crazy Jane' bargain, I hope?"
"Really, Mr. Burke, you are pleased to be sarcastic; but as for honest Katsey, have the goodness to take her out of your eye as soon as possible, for she only blinds you to your own interest and to mine."
"You wouldn't marry Kathleen, then?"
"For the present I say most assuredly not," replied the son, in the same ironical and polite tone.
"Because," continued his father, with a very grave smile, in which there was, to say truth, a good deal of the grin visible, "as poor Gerald was a good deal anxious about the matther, I said I'd try and make you marry her—to oblige him."
Hycy almost, if not altogether, lost his equanimity by the contemptuous sarcasm implied in these words. "Father," said he, to save trouble, and to prevent you and me both from thrashing the wind in this manner, I think it right to tell you that I have no notion of marrying such a girl as Cavanagh's daughter."
"No," continued his mother, "nor if you had, I wouldn't suffer it."
"Very well," said the father; "is that your mind?"
"That's my mind, sir."
"Well, now, listen to mine, and maybe, Hycy, I'll taiche you better manners and more respect for your father; suppose I bring your brother home from school,—suppose I breed him up an honest farmer,—and suppose I give him all my property, and lave Mr. Gentleman Hycy to lead a gentleman's life on his own means, the best way he can. There now is something for you to suppose, and so I must go to my men."
He took up his hat as he spoke and went out to the fields, leaving both mother and son in no slight degree startled by an intimation so utterly unexpected, but which they knew enough of him to believe was one not at all unlikely to be acted on by a man who so frequently followed up his own determinations with a spirit amounting almost to obstinacy.
"I think, mother," observed the latter, "we must take in sail a little; 'the gentleman' won't bear the ironical to such an extent, although he is master of it in his own way; in other words, Mr. Burke won't bear to be laughed at."
"Not he," said his mother, in the tone of one who was half angry at him on that very account, "he'll bear nothing."
"D—n it, to tell that vulgar bumpkin, Cavanagh, I suppose in a state of maudlin drunkenness, that he would make me marry his daughter—to oblige, him!—contempt could go no further; it was making a complete cipher of me."
"Ay, but I'm disturbed about what he said going out, Hycy. I don't half like the face he had on him when he said it; and when he comes to discover other things, too, money matthers—there will be no keepin the house wid him."
"I fear as much," said Hycy; "however, we must only play our cards as well as we can; he is an impracticable man, no doubt of it, and it is a sad thing that a young fellow of spirit should be depending on such a—
"'Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon, How can you bloom so fresh and fair, How can ye chant, ye little birds, And I sae weary fu' o' care, &c., &c.
"Well, well—I do not relish that last hint certainly, and if other projects should fail, why, as touching the fair Katsey, it might not be impossible that—however, time will develop. She is a fine girl, a magnificent creature, no doubt of it, still, most maternal relative, as I said, time will develop—by the way, Mrs. M'Mahon, the clodhopper's mother, is to be interred to-morrow, and I suppose you and 'the gentleman' will attend the funeral."
"Sartinly, we must."
"So shall 'the accomplished.' Clinton and I shall honor that lugubrious ceremony with our presence; but as respecting the clodhopper himself, meaning thereby Bryan of Ahadarra, he is provided for. What an unlucky thought to enter into the old fellow's noddle! However, non constat, as Finigan would say, time will develop."
"You're not gainin' ground with him at all events," said his mother; "ever since that Crazy Jane affair he's changed for the worse towards both of us, or ever since the robbery I ought to say, for he's dark and has something on his mind ever since."
"I'm in the dark there myself, most amiable of mothers; however, as I said just now, I say time will develop."
He then began to prepare himself for the business of the day, which consisted principally in riding about seeking out new adventures, or, as they term it, hunting in couples, with Harry Clinton.
CHAPTER XIII.—Mrs. M'Mahon's Funeral.
On the morning of Mrs. M'Mahon's funeral, the house as is usual in such cases, was filled with relatives and neighbors, each and all anxious to soothe and give comfort to the afflicted family. Protestants and Presbyterians were there, who entered as deeply and affectionately into the sorrow which was felt as if they were connected to them by blood. Moving about with something like authority, was Dennis O'Grady, the Roman Catholic Parish Clerk, who, with a semi-clerical bearing, undertook to direct the religious devotions which are usual on such occasions. In consequence of the dearth of schools and teachers that then existed in our unfortunate country, it frequently happened, that persons were, from necessity, engaged in aiding the performance of religious duties, who were possessed of very little education, if not, as was too often the case, absolutely and wholly illiterate. Dennis was not absolutely illiterate, but, in good truth, he was by no means far removed from that uncomfortable category. Finigan, the schoolmaster, was also present; and as he claimed acquaintance with the classics, and could understand and read with something like correctness the Latin offices, which were frequently repeated on these occasions it would be utterly impossible to describe the lofty scorn and haughty supercilious contempt with which he contemplated poor Dennis, who kept muttering away at the Confiteor and De Profundis with a barbarity of pronunciation that rendered it impossible for human ears to understand a single word he said. Finigan, swollen with an indignation which he could no longer suppress, and stimulated by a glass or two of whiskey, took three or four of the neighbors over to a corner, where, whilst his eyes rested on Dennis with a most withering expression of scorn, he exclaimed—"Here, hand me that manual, and get out o' my way, you illiterate nonentity and most unsufferable appendage to religion."
He then took the book, and going over to the coffin, read in a loud and sonorous voice the De Profundis and other prayers for the dead, casting his eyes from time to time upon the unfortunate clerk with a contemptuous bitterness and scorn that, for force of expression, could not be surpassed. When he had concluded, he looked around him with a sense of lofty triumph that was irresistible in its way. "There," said he, "is something like accent and quantity for you—there is something that may, without derogation to religion, be called respectable perusal—an' yet to say that a man like me, wid classical accomplishments and propensities from my very cradle, should be set aside for that illiterate vulgarian, merely because, like every other janius, I sometimes indulge in the delectable enjoyment of a copious libation, is too bad."
This in fact was the gist of his resentment against O'Grady. He had been in the habit for some time of acting as clerk to the priest, who bore with his "copious libations," as he called them, until common decency rendered it impossible to allow him any longer the privilege of taking a part as clerk in the ceremonies of religion.
When this was over, a rustic choir, whom the parish clerk had organized, and in a great measure taught himself, approached the body and sang a hymn over it, after which the preparations for its removal began to be made.
Ever since the death of his wife, Thomas M'Mahon could not be prevailed upon to taste a morsel of food. He went about from place to place, marked by such evidences of utter prostration and despair that it was painful to look upon him, especially when one considered the truth, purity, and fervor of the affection that had subsisted between him and the inestimable woman he had lost. The only two individuals capable of exercising any influence upon him now were Bryan and his daughter Dora; yet even they could not prevail upon him to take any sustenance. His face was haggard and pale as death, his eyes red and bloodshot, and his very body, which had always been erect and manly, was now stooped and bent from the very intensity of his affliction.
He had been about the garden during the scene just described, and from the garden he passed round through all the office-houses, into every one of which he entered, looking at them in the stupid bereavement of grief, as if he had only noticed them for the first time. On going into the cow-house where the animals were at their food, he approached one of them—that which had been his wife's favorite, and which would suffer no hand to milk her but her own—"Oh, Bracky," he said, "little you know who's gone from you—even you miss her already, for you refused for the last three days to let any one of them milk you, when she was not here to do it. Ah, Bracky, the kind hand and the kind word that you liked so well will never be wid you more—that low sweet song that you loved to listen to, and that made you turn round while she was milkin' you, an' lick her wid your tongue from pure affection—for what was there that had life that didn't love her? That low, sweet song, Bracky, you will never hear again. Well, Bracky, for her sake I'm come to tell you, this sorrowful mornin', that while I have life an' the means of keepin' you, from me an' them she loved you will never part."
While he spoke the poor animal, feeling from the habit of instinct that the hour of! milking had arrived, turned round and uttered once or twice that affectionate lowing with which she usually called upon the departed to come and relieve her of her fragrant burthen. This was more than the heart-broken man could bear, he walked back, and entering the wake-house, in a burst of vehement sorrow—"Oh, Bridget, my wife, my wife—is it any wondher we should feel your loss, when your favorite, Bracky, is callin' for you; but you won't come to her—that voice that so often charmed her will never charm the poor affectionate creature again."
"Father dear," said Bryan, "if ever you were called upon to be a man it is now."
"But, Byran, as God is to judge me," replied his father, "the cow—her own cow—is callin' for her in the cow-house widin—its truth—doesn't everything miss her—even poor Bracky feels as if she was dasarted. Oh, my God, an' what will we do—what will we do!"
This anecdote told by the sorrowing husband was indeed inexpressingly affecting. Bryan, who had collected all his firmness with a hope of being able to sustain his father, was so much overpowered by this circumstance that, after two or three ineffectual attempts to soothe him, he was himself fairly overcome, and yielded for the moment to bitter tears, whilst the whole family broke out into one general outburst, of sorrow, accompanied in many cases by the spectators, who were not proof against the influence of so natural and touching an incident.
Their neighbors and friends, in the meantime, were pouring in fast from all directions. Jemmy Burke and his wife—the latter ridiculously over-dressed—drove there upon their jaunting-car, which was considered a great compliment, followed soon afterwards by Hycy and Harry Clinton on horse-back. Gerald Cavanagh and his family also came, with the exception of Kathleen and Hanna, who were, however, every moment expected. The schoolmaster having finished the De Profundis, was, as is usual, treated to glass of whiskey—a circumstance which just advanced him to such a degree of fluency and easy assurance as was necessary properly to develop the peculiarities of his character. Having witnessed Bryan's failure at consolation, attended as it was by the clamorous grief of the family, he deemed it his duty, especially as he had just taken some part in the devotions, to undertake the task in which Bryan had been so unsuccessful.
"Thomas M'Mahon," said he, "I'm disposed to blush—do you hear me, I say? I am disposed to blush, I repate, for your want of—he doesn't hear me:—will you pay attention? I am really disposed to blush"—and as he uttered the words he stirred M'Mahon by shaking his shoulders two or three times, in order to gain his attention.
"Are you?" replied the other, replying in an absent manner to his words. "God help you then, and assist you, for it's few can do it."
"Can do what?"
"Och, I don't know; whatever you wor sayin'."
"Patience, my good friend, Thomas M'Mahon. I would call you Tom familiarly, but that you are in affliction, and it is well known that every one in affliction is, or at least ought to be, treated with respect and much sympathetical consolation. You are now in deep sorrow; but don't you knows that death is the end of all things? and believe me there are many objects in this world which a wise and experienced man would lose wid much greater regret than he would a mere wife. Think, for instance, how many men there are—dreary and subdued creatures—who dare not call their souls, if they have any, or anything else they do possess, their own; think, I repate, of those who would give nine-tenths of all they are worth simply to be in your present condition! Wretches who from the moment they passed under the yoke matrimonial, to which all other yokes are jokes, have often heard of liberty but never enjoyed it for one single hour—the Lord help them!"
"Amen!" exclaimed M'Mahon, unconsciously.
"Yes," proceeded Finigan, "unfortunate devils whose obstinacy has been streaked by a black mark, or which ought rather to be termed a black and blue mark, for that is an abler and more significant illustration, Poor quadrupeds who have lived their whole miserable lives as married men under an iron dynasty; and who know that the thunderings of Jupiter himself, if he were now in vogue, would be mere music compared to the fury of a conjugal tongue when agitated by any one of the thousand causes that set it a-going so easily. Now, Thomas, I am far from insinuating that ever you stood in that most pitiable category, but I know many who have—heigho!—and I know many who do, and some besides who will; for what was before may be agin, and it will be nothing but ascendancy armed with her iron rod on the one hand, against patience, submission, and tribulation, wid their groans and penances on the other. Courage then, my worthy friend; do not be overwhelmed wid grief, for I can assure you that as matters in general go on the surface of this terraqueous globe, the death of a wife ought to be set down as a proof that heaven does not altogether overlook us. 'Tis true there are tears shed upon such occasions, and for very secret reason's too, if the truth were known. Joy has its tears as well as grief, I believe, and it is often rather difficult, under a blessing so completely disguised as the death of a wi—of one's matrimonial partner, to restrain them. Come then, be a man. There is Mr. Hycy Burke, a tender-hearted young gentleman, and if you go on this way you will have him weeping' for sheer sympathy, not pretermitting Mr. Clinton, his companion, who is equally inclined to be pathetic, if one can judge from apparent symptoms."
"I'm obliged to you, Masther," replied M'Mahon, who had not heard, or rather paid attention to, a single syllable he had uttered. "Of course it's thruth you're savin'—-it is—it is, fureer gair it is; and she that's gone from me is a proof of it. What wondher then that I should shed tears, and feel as I do?"
The unconscious simplicity of this reply to such a singular argument for consolation as the schoolmaster had advanced, caused many to smile, some to laugh outright, and others to sympathize still more deeply with M'Mahon's sorrow. Finigan's allusion to Hycy and his companion was justified by the contrast which the appearance of each presented. Hycy, who enjoyed his lecture on the tribulations of matrimonial life very much, laughed as he advanced in it, whilst Clinton, who was really absorbed in a contemplation of the profound and solemn spirit which marked the character of the grief he witnessed, and who felt impressed besides by the touching emblems of death and bereavement which surrounded him, gradually gave way to the impressions that gained on him, until he almost felt the tears in his eyes.
At this moment Kathleen and her sister Hanna entered the house, and a general stir took place among those who were present, which was caused by her strikingly noble figure and extraordinary beauty—a beauty which, on the occasion in question, assumed a peculiarly dignified and majestic character from the deep and earnest sympathy with the surrounding sorrow that was impressed on it.
Hycy and his companion surveyed her for many minutes; and the former began to think that after all, if Miss Clinton should fail him, Kathleen would make an admirable and most lovely wife. Her father soon after she entered came over, and taking her hand said, "Come with me, Kathleen, till you shake hands wid a great friend of yours—wid Misther Burke. This is herself, Misther Burke," he added, significantly, on putting her hand into that of honest Jemmy, "an' I think no father need be ashamed of her."
"Nor no father-in-law," replied Jemmy, shaking her cordially by the hand, "and whisper, darlin'," said he, putting his mouth close to her ear, and speaking so as that he might not be heard by others, "I hope to see you my daughter-in-law yet, if I could only get that boy beyant to make himself worthy of you."
On speaking he turned his eyes on Hycy, who raised himself up, and assuming his best looks intimated his consciousness of being the object of his father's allusion to him. He then stepped over to where she stood, and extending his hand with an air of gallantry and good humor said, "I hope Miss Cavanagh, who has so far honored our worthy father, won't refuse to honor the son."
Kathleen, who had blushed at his father's words, now blushed more deeply still; because in this instance, there was added to the blush of modesty that of offended pride at his unseasonable presumption.
"This, Mr. Hycy," she replied, "is neither a time nor a place for empty compliments. When the son becomes as worthy as the father, I'll shake hands with him; but not till that time comes."
On returning to the place she had left, her eyes met those of Bryan, and for a period that estimable and true-hearted young fellow forgot both grief and sorrow in the rush of rapturous love which poured its unalloyed sense of happiness into his heart. Hycy, however, felt mortified, and bit his lip with vexation. To a young man possessed of excessive vanity, the repulse was the more humiliating in proportion to its publicity. Gerald Cavanagh was as deeply offended as Hycy, and his wife could not help exclaiming aloud, "Kathleen! what do you mane? I declare I'm ashamed of you!"
Kathleen, however, sat down beside her sister, and the matter was soon forgotten in the stir and bustle which preceded the setting out of the funeral.
This was indeed a trying and heart-rending scene. The faithful wife, the virtuous mother, the kind friend, and the pious Christian, was now about to be removed for ever from that domestic scene which her fidelity, her virtue, her charity, and her piety, had filled with peace, and love, and happiness. As the coffin, which had been resting upon two chairs, was about to be removed, the grief of her family became loud and vehement.
"Oh, Bridget!" exclaimed her husband, "and is it to come to this at last! And you are lavin' us for evermore! Don't raise the coffin," he proceeded, "don't raise it. Oh! let us not part wid her till to-morrow; let us know that she's undher the same roof wid us until then. An', merciful Father, when I think where you're goin' to bring her to! Oh! there lies the heart now widout one motion—dead and cowld—the heart that loved us all as no other heart ever did! Bridget, my wife, don't you hear me? But the day was that you'd hear me, an' that your kind an' lovin' eye would turn on me wid that smile that was never broken. Where is the wife that was true? Where is the lovin' mother, the charitable heart to the poor and desolate, and the hand that was ever ready to aid them that was in distress? Where are they all now? There, dead and cowld forever, in that coffin. What has become of my wife, I say? What is death at all, to take all we love from us this way? But sure God forgive me for saying so, for isn't it the will of God? but oh! it is the heaviest of all thrials to lose such a woman as she was!"
Old grandfather, as he was called, had latterly become very feeble, and was barely able to be out of bed on that occasion. When the tumult reached the room where he sat with some of the aged neighbors, he inquired what had occasioned it, and being told that the coffin was about to be removed to the hearse, he rose up.
"That is Tom's voice I hear," said he, "and I must put an end to this." He accordingly made his appearance rather unexpectedly among them, and approaching his son, said, putting his hand commandingly upon his shoulder, and looking in his face with a solemn consciousness of authority that was irresistible, "I command you, Tom, to stop. It's not many commands that I'll ever give you—maybe this will be the last—and it's not many ever I had occasion to give you, but now I command you to stop and let the funeral go on." He paused for a short time and looked upon the features of his son with a full sense of what was due to his authority. His great age, his white hairs, his venerable looks and bearing, and the reverence which the tremulous but earnest tones of his voice were calculated to inspire, filled his son with awe, and he was silent.
"Father," said he, "I will; I'll try and obey you—I will."
"God bless you and comfort you, my dear son," said the old man. "Keep silence, now," he proceeded, addressing the others, "and bring the coffin to the hearse at wanst. And may God strengthen and support you all, for it's I that knows your loss; but like a good mother as she was, she has left none but good and dutiful childre' behind her."
Poor Dora, during the whole morning, had imposed a task upon herself that was greater than her affectionate and sorrowing heart could bear. She was very pale and exhausted by the force of what she had felt, and her excessive weeping; but it was observed that she now appeared to manifest a greater degree of fortitude than any of the rest. Still, during this assumed calmness, the dear girl, every now and then, could not help uttering a short convulsive sob, that indicated at once her physical debility and extraordinary grief. She was evidently incapable of entering into conversation, or at least, averse to it, and was consequently very silent during the whole morning. As they stooped, however, to remove the coffin, she threw herself upon it, exclaiming, "Mother, its your own Dora—mother—mother—don't, mother—don't lave me don't—I won't let her go—I won't let her go! I—I—" Even before she could utter the words she intended to say, her head sank down, and her pale but beautiful cheek lay exactly beside the name, Bridget M'Mahon, that was upon it.
"The poor child has fainted," they exclaimed, "bring her to the fresh air."
Ere any one had time, however, to raise her, James Cavanagh rushed over to the coffin, and seizing her in his arms, bore her to the street, where he placed her upon one of the chairs that had been left there to support the coffin until keened over by the relatives and friends, previous to its being-placed in the hearse; for such is the custom. There is something exceedingly alarming in a swoon to a person who witnesses it for the first time; which was the case with James Cavanagh. Having placed her on the chair, he looked wildly upon her; then as wildly upon those who were crowding round him. "What ails her?" he exclaimed—"what ails her?—she is dead!—she is dead! Dora—Dora dear—Dora dear, can't you spake or hear me?"
Whilst he pronounced the words, a shower of tears gushed rapidly from his eyes and fell upon her beautiful features, and in the impressive tenderness of the moment, he caught her to his heart, and with rapturous distraction and despair kissed her lips and exclaimed, "She is dead!—she is dead!—an' all that's in the world is nothing to the love I had for her!"
"Stand aside, James," said his sister Kathleen; "leave this instantly. Forgive him, Bryan," she said, looking at her lover with a burning brow, "he doesn't know what he is doing."
"No, Kathleen," replied, her brother, with a choking voice, "neither for you nor for him, nor for a human crature, will I leave her."
"James, I'm ashamed of you," said Hanna, rapidly and energetically disengaging his arms from about the insensible girl; "have! you no respect for Dora? If you love her as you say, you could hardly act as you did."
"Why," said he, staring at her, "what did I do?"
Bryan took him firmly by the arm, and said, "Come away, you foolish boy; I don't think you know what you did. Leave her to the girls. There, she is recoverin'."
She did soon recover; but weak and broken down as she was, no persuasion nor even authority could prevail upon her to remain at home. Jemmy Burke, who had intended to offer Kathleen a seat upon his car, which, of course, she would not have accepted, was now outmanoeuvred by his wife, 'who got Dora beside herself, after having placed a sister of Tom M'Mahon's beside him.
At length, the coffin was brought out, and the keene raised over it, on the conclusion of which it was placed in the hearse, and the procession began to move on.
There is nothing in the rural districts of this country that so clearly indicates the respect entertained for any family as the number of persons which, when a death takes place in it, attend the funeral. In such a case, the length of the procession is the test of esteem in which the party has been held. Mrs. M'Mahon's funeral was little less than a mile long. All the respectable farmers and bodaghs, as they call them, or half-sirs in the parish, were in attendance, as a mark of, respect for the virtues of the deceased, and of esteem for the integrity and upright spirit of the family that had been deprived of her so unexpectedly.
Hycy and his friend, Harry Clinton, of course rode together, Finigan, the schoolmaster, keeping as near them as he could; but not so near as to render his presence irksome to them, when he saw that they had no wish for it.
"Well, Harry," said his companion, "what do you think of the last scene?"
"You allude to Cavanagh's handsome young son, and the very pretty girl that fainted, poor thing!"
"Of course I do," replied Hycy.
"Why," said the other, "I think the whole thing was very simple, and consequently very natural. The young fellow, who is desperately in love—there is no doubt of that—thought she had died; and upon my soul, Hycy, there is a freshness and a purity in the strongest raptures of such a passion, that neither you nor I can dream of. I think, however, I can understand, or guess at rather, the fulness of heart and the tenderness by which he was actuated."
"What do you think of Miss Cavanagh?" asked Hycy, with more of interest than he had probably ever felt in her before.
"What do I think?" said the other, looking at him with a good deal of surprise. "What can I think? What could any man, that has either taste or common-sense think? Faith, Hycy, to be plain with you, I think her one of the finest girls, if not the very finest, I ever saw. Heavens! what would not that girl be if she had received the advantages of a polished and comprehensive education?"
"She is very much of a lady as it is," added Hycy, "and has great natural dignity and unstudied grace, although I must say that she has left me under no reason to feel any particular obligations to her."
"And yet there is a delicate and graceful purity in the beauty of little Dora, which is quite captivating," observed Clinton.
"Very well," replied the other, "I make jou a present of the two fair rustics; give me the interesting Maria. Ah, Harry, see what education and manner do. Maria is a delightful girl."
"She is an amiable and a good girl," said her brother; "but, in point of personal attractions, quite inferior to either of the two we have been speaking of."
"Finigan," said Hycy—"I beg your pardon, O'Finigan—the great O'Finigan, Philomath—are you a good judge of beauty?"
"Why, then, Mr. Hycy," replied the pedagogue, "I think, above all subjects, that a thorough understanding of that same comes most natural to an Irishman. It is a pleasant topic to discuss at all times."
"Much pleasanter than marriage, I think," said Clinton, smiling.
"Ah, Mr. Clinton," replied the other, with a shrug, "de mortuis nil nisi bonum; but as touching beauty, in what sense do you ask my opinion?"
"Whether now, for instance, would your learned taste prefer Miss Cavanagh or Miss Dora M'Mahon? and give your reasons."
"Taste, Mr. Hycy, is never, or at least seldom, guided by reason; the question, however, is a fair one."
"One at least on a fair subject," observed Clinton.
"Very well said, Mr. Clinton," replied the schoolmaster, with a grin—"there goes wit for us, no less—and originality besides. See what it is to have a great janius!—ha! ha! ha!"
"Well, Mr. O'Finigan," pursued Hycy, "but about the ladies? You have not given us your opinion."
"Why, then, they are both highly gifted wid beauty, and strongly calculated to excite the amorous sentiments of refined and elevated affection."
"Well done, Mr. Plantation," said Hycy; "you are improving—proceed."
"Miss Cavanagh, then," continued Finigan, "I'd say was a goddess, and Miss M'Mahon her attendant nymph."
"Good again, O'Finigan," said Clinton; "you are evidently at home in the mythology."
"Among the goddesses, at any rate," replied the master, with another grin.
"Provided there is no matrimony in the question," said Clinton.
"Ah, Mr. Clinton, don't, if you please. That's a subject you may respect yet as much as I do; but regarding my opinion of the two beauties in question, why was it solicited, Mr. Hycy?" he added, turning to that worthy gentlemen.
"Faith, I'm not able to say, most learned Philomath; only, is it true that Bryan, the clodhopper, has matrimonial designs upon the fair daughter of the regal Cavanagh?"
"Sic vult fama, Mr. Hycy, upon condition that a certain accomplished young gentleman, whose surname commences with the second letter of the alphabet, won't offer—for in that case, it is affirmed, that the clodhopper should travel. By the way, Mr. Clinton, I met your uncle and Mr. Fethertonge riding up towards Ahadarra this morning."
"Indeed!" exclaimed both; and as they spoke, each cast a look of inquiry at the other.
"What could bring them to Ahadarra, gentlemen?" asked Finigan, in a tone of voice which rendered it a nice point to determine whether it was a simple love of knowledge that induced him to put the question, or some other motive that might have lain within a kind of ironical gravity that accompanied it.
"Why, I suppose a pair of good horses," replied Hycy, "and their own inclination."
"It was not the last, at all events," said Finigan, "that ever brought a thief to the gallows—ha! ha! ha! we must be facetious sometimes, Mr. Hycy."
"You appear to enjoy that joke, Mr. Finigan," said Hycy, rather tartly.
"Faith," replied Finigan, "it's a joke that very few do enjoy, I think."
"Why, the gallows, sir—ha! ha! ha! but don't forget the O if you plaise—ever and always the big O before Finigan—ha! ha! ha!"
"Come, Clinton," said Hycy, "move on a little. D—n that fellow!" he cried—"he's a sneering scoundrel; and I'm half inclined to think he has more in him than one would be apt to give him credit for."
"By the way, what could the visit to Ahadarra mean?" asked Clinton. "Do you know anything about it, Hycy?"
"Not about this; but it is very likely that I shall cause them, or one of them at least, to visit it on some other occasion ere long; and that's all I can say now. Curse that keening, what a barbarous practice it is!'
"I think not," said the other; "on the contrary, I am of opinion that there's something strikingly wild and poetical in it something that argues us Irish to be a people of deep feeling and strong imagination: two of the highest gifts of intellect."
"All stuff," replied the accomplished Hycy, who, among his other excellent qualities, could never afford to speak a good word to his country Or her people. "All stuff and barbarous howling that we learned from the wolves when we had them in Ireland. Here we are at the graveyard."
"Hycy," said his friend, "it never occurred to me to thing of asking what religion you believe in."
"It is said," replied Hycy, "that a fool may propose a question which a wise man can't answer. As to religion, I have not yet made any determination among the variety that is abroad. A man, however, can be at no loss; for as every one of them is the best, it matters little which of them he chooses. I think it likely I shall go to church with your sister, should we ever do matrimony together. To a man like me who's indifferent, respectability alone ought to determine."
Clinton made no reply to this; and in a few minutes afterward they entered the churchyard, the coffin having been taken out of the hearse and borne on the shoulders of her four nearest relatives,—Tom M'Mahon, in deep silence and affliction, preceding it as chief mourner.
There is a prostrating stupor, or rather a kind of agonizing delirium that comes over the mind when we are forced to mingle with crowds, and have our ears filled with the voices of lamentation, the sounds of the death-bell, or the murmur of many people in conversation. 'Twas thus M'Mahon felt during the whole procession. Sometimes he thought it was relief, and again he felt as if it was only the mere alternation of suffering into a sharper and more dreadful sorrow; for, change as it might, there lay tugging at his heart the terrible consciousness that she, I the bride of his youthful love and the companion of his larger and more manly affection—the blameless wife and the stainless woman—was about to be consigned to the grave, and that his eyes in this life must; never rest upon her again.
When the coffin was about to be lowered down, all the family, one after another, clasped their arms about it, and kissed it with a passionate fervor of grief that it was impossible to witness with firmness. At length her husband, who had been looking on, approached it, and clasping it in his arms like the rest, he said—"for ever and for ever, and for ever, Bridget—but, no, gracious God, no; the day will come, Bridget, when I will be with you here—I don't care now how soon. My happiness is gone, asthore machree—life is nothing to me now—all's empty; and there's neither joy, nor ease of mind, nor comfort for me any more. An' this is our last parting—this is our last farewell, Bridget dear; but from this out my hope is to be with you here; and if nothing else on my bed of death was to console me, it would be, and it will be, that you and I will then sleep together, never to be parted more. That will be my consolation."
"Now, father dear," said Bryan, "we didn't attempt to stop or prevent you, and I hope you'll be something calm and come away for a little."
"Best of sons! but aren't you all good, for how could you be otherwise with her blood in your veins?—bring me away; come you, Dora darlin'—ay, that's it—support the: blessed child between you and Hanna, Kathleen darlin'. Oh, wait, wait till we get out of hearin, or the noise of the clay fallin' on the coffin will kill me."
They then walked to some distance, where they remained until the "narrow house" was nearly filled, after which they once more surrounded it until the last sod was beaten in. This being over, the sorrowing group sought their way home with breaking hearts, leaving behind them her whom they had loved so well reposing in the cold and unbroken solitude of the grave.
CHAPTER XIV.—Mysterious Letter
—Hycy Disclaims Sobriety—Ahadarra's in for it.
One day about a month after Mrs. M'Mahon's funeral, Harry Clinton was on his way to Jemmy Burke's, when he met Nanny Peety going towards Ballymacan.
"Well, Nanny," he inquired, "where are you bound for, now?"
"To the post-office with a letter from Masther Hycy, sir. I wanted him to tell me who it was for, but he would not. Will you, Mr. Clinton?" and she held out the letter to him as she spoke.
Clinton felt a good deal surprised to see that it was addressed to his uncle, and also written in a hand which he did not recognize to be that of Hycy Burke.
"Are you sure, Nanny," he asked, "that this letter was written by Mr. Hycy?"
"Didn't I see him, sir?" she replied; "he wrote it before my eyes a minute before he handed it to me. Who is it for, Mr. Clinton?"
"Why are you so very anxious to know, Nanny?" he inquired.
"Sorra thing," she replied, "but curiosity—a woman's curiosity, you know."
"Well, Nanny, you know, or ought to know, that it would not be right in me to tell you who the letter is for, when Mr. Hycy did not think proper to do so."
"True enough, sir," she replied; "an I beg your pardon, Mr. Clinton, for asking you; indeed it was wrong in me to tell you who it came from even, bekaise Mr. Hycy told me not to let any one see it, only jist to slip it into the post-office unknownst, as I passed it; an' that was what made me wish to know who it was goin' to, since the thruth must be tould."
Clinton in turn now felt his curiosity stimulated as to the contents of this mysterious epistle, and he resolved to watch, if possible, what effect the perusal of it might have on his uncle, otherwise he was never likely to hear a syllable that was contained in it, that worthy relative being, from official necessity, a most uncommunicative person in all his proceedings.
"I wonder," observed Clinton, "that Mr. Hycy would send to any one a letter so slurred and blotted with ink as that is."
"Ay, but he blotted it purposely himself," replied Nanny, "and that too surprised me, and made me wish to know what he could mane by it."
"Perhaps it's a love-letter, Nanny," said Clinton, laughing.
"I would like to know who it is to, at any rate," said the girl; "but since you won't, tell me, sir, I must try and not lose my rest about it. Good-bye, Mr. Clinton."
"Good-bye, Nanny;" and so they started.
Young Clinton, who, though thoughtless and fond of pleasure, was not without many excellent points of character, began now to perceive, by every day's successive intimacy, the full extent of Hycy Burke's profligacy of morals, and utter want of all honorable principle. Notwithstanding this knowledge, however, he felt it extremely difficult, nay, almost impossible, to separate himself from Hycy, who was an extremely pleasant young fellow, and a very agreeable companion when he pleased. He had in fact gained that personal ascendancy over him, or that licentious influence which too many of his stamp are notorious for exercising over better men than themselves; and he found that he could not readily throw Hyoy off, without being considerably a loser by the act.
"I shall have nothing to do with his profligacy," said he, "or his want of principle, and I shall let him know, at all events, that I will not abide by the agreement or compromise entered into between us some time since at his father's. He shall not injure an honest man for me, nor shall I promise him even neutrality with respect to his proposal for my sister, whom I would rather see dead a hundred times than the wife of such a fellow."
The next morning, about half an hour before breakfast, he told his uncle that he was stepping into town and would bring him any letters that might be for him in the post-office. He accordingly did so, and received two letters, one Hycy's and the other with the crest and frank of the sitting member for the county, who was no other than young Chevydale. His uncle was at breakfast when he handed them to him, and we need hardly say that the M.P. was honored by instant attention. The Still-hound read it over very complacently. "Very well," he exclaimed; "very well, indeed, so far. Harry, we must be on the alert, now the elections are approaching, and Chevydale will be stoutly opposed, it seems. We must work for him, and secure as many votes as we can. It is our interest to do so, Harry,—and he will make it our interest besides."
"Has principle nothing to do with it, sir?"
"Principle! begad, sir," retorted the uncle, "there's no such thing as principle—lay that down as a fact—there's no such thing in this world as principle."
"Well, but consistency, uncle. For instance, you know you always vote on the Tory side, and Chevydale is a Liberal and an Emancipator."
"Consistency is all d—d stuff, Harry, as principle. What does it mean? why that if a man's once wrong he's always to be wrong—that is just the amount of it. There's Chevydale, for instance, he has a brother who is a rank Tory and a Commissioner of Excise, mark that; Chevydale and he play into each other's hands, and Chevydale some of these days will sell the Liberals, that is, if he can get good value for them. If I now vote on the Tory side against Chevydale, his brother, the Tory Commissioner, will be my enemy in spite of all his Toryism; but if I vote and exert myself for Chevydale, the Liberal, I make his Tory of a brother my friend for life. And now, talk to me about principle, or consistency either."
His nephew could not but admit, that the instances adduced by his uncle were admirably calculated to illustrate his argument, and he accordingly pursued the subject no further.
"Ay!" exclaimed the Still-hound, "what d—d scrawl have we got here? Ay, ay, why this is better than I expected."
"What is better, uncle?" said the nephew, venturing an experiment.
"Why," replied the sagacious old rascal, "for you to mind your business, if you have any, and to let me mind mine, without making impertinent inquiries, Master Harry." With these words he went and. locked up both letters in his desk. As we, however, possess the power of unlocking his desk, and reading the letter to boot, we now take the liberty of laying it in all its graphic beauty and elegance before our readers—
"To MISTHER KLINTON, SIR:
"Af you go this nite bout seven clocks or thereaway, you'd find a Still-Hed an' Worm At full work, in they tipper End iv The brown Glen in Ahadarra. Sir, thrum wan iv Die amstrung's Orringemen an' a fren to the axshize."
The gauger after breakfast again resumed the conversation as follows:—
"Have you changed your mind, Harry, regarding the Excise? because if you have I think I may soon have an opportunity of getting you a berth."
"No, sir, I feel an insurmountable repugnance to the life of a Still—hem."
"Go on, man, to the life of a Still-hunter. Very well. Your father's death last year left you and your sister there dependent upon me, for the present at least; for what could a medical man only rising into practice, with a, family to support and educate, leave behind him?"
"Unfortunately, sir, it is too true."
"In the mean time you may leave 'unfortunate' out, and thank God that you had the shelter of my roof to come to; and be on your knees, too, that I was a bachelor. Well, I am glad myself that I had and have a home for you; but still, Harry, you ought to think of doing something for yourself; for I may not live always, you know, and beside I am not rich. You don't relish surgery, you say?"
"I can't endure it, uncle."
"But you like farming?"
"Above every other mode of life."
"Very well, I think it's likely I shall have a good farm to put you into before long."
"Thank you, uncle. You may rest assured that both Maria and myself are fully sensible of the kindness we have experienced at your hands."
"Small thanks to me for that. Who the devil would I assist, if not my brother's orphans? It is true, I despise the world, but still we must make our use of it. I know it consists of only knaves and fools. Now, I respect the knaves; for if it were'nt for their roguery, the world would never work; it would stand still and be useless. The fools I despise, not so much because they are fools, as because they would be knaves if they could; so that, you see I return again to my favorite principle of honesty. I am going to Ballymacan on business, so good-bye to you both."
"Uncle," said his nephew, "one word with you before you go."
"What is it?"
"Would you suffer me to offer you a word of advice, and will you excuse me for taking such a liberty with a man of your experience?"
"Certainly, Harry, and shall always feel thankful to any one that gives me good advice."
"If this is not good advice, it is at least well intended."
"Let us hear it first, and then we shall judge better."
"You say you will procure me a farm. Now, uncle, there is one thing I should wish in connection with that transaction, which is, that you would have no underhand—hem!—no private understanding of any kind with Mr. Hycy Burke."
"Me a private understanding with Hycy Burke! What in the devil's name has put such a crotchet as that into your head?"
"I only speak as I do, because I believe you have received a private communication from him."
"Have I, faith! If so I am obliged to you—but I am simply ignorant of the fact you mention; for, with my own knowledge', I never received a line from him in my life."
"Then I must be wrong," replied Harry; "that is all."
"Wrong! Certainly you are wrong. Hycy Burke, I am told, is a compound of great knave and gross fool, the knavery rather prevailing. But how is this? Are not you and he inseparable?"
"He is a companion, uncle, but not a friend in the true sense—nor, indeed, in any sense of that word. I spoke now, however, with reference to a particular transaction, and not to his general character."
"Well, then, I have no underhand dealings with him, as you are pleased to call them, nor ever had. I never to my knowledge received a line from him in my life; but I tell you that if he comes in my way, and that I can make use of him, I will. Perhaps he may serve us in the Elections. Have you anything else to ask?"